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Middlesex Interpreting and Translation students visit the EU Directorate General for Interpretation and the EU Directorate General for Translation in Brussels

31 May 2016

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A group of second-year Middlesex University BA Interpreting and Translation students, accompanied by Edgar Schroder, Director of Interpreting and Translation programmes, and Dr Abele Longo, MA Translation Programme Leader, visited the Directorate-General for Interpretation (DG Interpretation, AKA SCIC) and the Directorate-General for Translation (DG Translation), which are part of the European Commission in Brussels, between 25 and 28 May 2016.

As a multilingual organisation communicating in 24 official languages, the various EU institutions and bodies require an enormous amount of interpreting and translation work to support and strengthen multilingual communication within the EU (and with the outside world). The EU institutions are therefore one of the world’s largest employers of interpreters and translators, and the various language transfer activities necessary to ensure effective multilingual communication have become an important field of research. Obtaining more insight into the work of the EU’s interpreting and translation services and relevant training as well as career opportunities were reasons enough for Middlesex University’s Interpreting and Translation Student Society to suggest and, together with academic staff, organise a three-day study visit to Brussels.

On Thursday 26 May, the group was welcomed by Kristina Van Balen, Programme Manager for DG Interpretation Study Visits, and met with Cathy Pearson, Deputy Head of the DG Interpretation English Unit, and Marta Kakol, Project Officer of the DG Interpretation E-Learning Unit. Cathy Pearson offered a fascinating insight into the work of interpreting practitioners within DG Interpretation, providing information on the general working conditions, how the work is structured and organised, and what particular challenges interpreters are faced with in their day-to-day duties. She also outlined the training and professional development activities run by DG Interpretation and talked about the competitions and tests set for applicants to DG Interpretation.

Marta Kakol provided an insight into the online DG Interpretation resources, including the Speech Repository. The day concluded with a visit to the interpreting booths in one of the meeting rooms in the Centre de Conférences Albert Borschette, where Cathy and Marta showed the group how the interpretation process is performed.

On Friday 27 May, the group was welcomed by Ekaterina Naos, programme manager for DG Translation study visits, who had put together a schedule of most interesting presentations for the day. After a presentation on DG Translation, the group attended talks on terminology, translation tools and workflow, web translation and editing, recruitment and traineeships, freelance translation, and clear-writing.

The group had lunch with staff translators, who very kindly answered questions and expressed their views on the profession. The day ended with a particular highlight: The group visited a staff translator’s office and had the opportunity to look over his shoulder and discuss issues of the translation he was performing.

On Saturday 28 May, the group attended open day events at the European Council and the European Commission. This comprised a schedule of events and activities providing the opportunity to tour the European Council’s Justus Lipsius building and to learn more about the history of the European Union and the different Member States. The students also had the chance to practise their interpreting skills in the official interpreting booths, interpreting for a Q&A session between members of the public and EU officials in the Berlaymont building, the European Commission’s headquarters.

The participants found the three-day visit very useful and exciting. One of the real highlights of the visit was the opportunity to practise in the interpreting booths at the European Commission’s open day. They very much appreciated the kindness and help of the event organisers and the openness and generosity of the interpreters and translators they talked to, and found their differing and varied views on the profession most enlightening. It was also extremely interesting for the students to hear about the different routes into the profession of the various interpreters and translators. The trip was also a great opportunity for the students to get to know each other better and to explore and learn more about the fascinating city of Brussels. They felt that the visit had helped to further clarify which direction they would like to take their own careers in and they highly recommended that the department should organise similar trips in the future to enhance the student experience, students’ future studies and their employability prospects.

All participants are very grateful to their hosts at DG Interpretation and DG Translation for making the study visit such a valuable experience, and to Middlesex University Students’ Union, the University’s Exchanges Office and the Head of the University’s Education department for the support and funding provided. Finally, it is very pleasing to note that the trip has already turned out as particularly successful for one of the students in the group, who has just been offered a five-month traineeship in the Language Service of the General Secretariat of the Council of the EU. She will be back in Brussels by the end of the summer.

Visit to DG Translation

Visit to DG Translation

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Visit to DG Interpreting

Visit to DG Interpreting

 

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